Opinion: What is Art?

 

 

What makes something art?

According to the oxford dictionary, art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” This is not a bad definition, although I think it could be expanded to better define art. To me, art is anything that makes you think harder about the subject pictured. This applies to every type of art: painting, drawing, photography, music, digital painting, sculpture, printing, design, architecture, and even crafts.

Personal Outlet of Expression

The idea that art can be anything that invokes deep reflection, means that art becomes a personal outlet of expression to anyone, not just those who create it. Art is watching a movie that makes you rethink your life. It’s that feeling of wanting adventure when you look at photographs of nature. It causes deeper thought and invigorates the mind. Personally, art is anything visual that alters my mood or mindset. That is what art is. For example, this morning I was watching Treasure Planet (the underrated beauty of Disney). This film puts me in a sense of awe when I observe not only the beautiful scenery, but the flow of the story, the connections made between characters and how the movie itself progresses. These all solicit profound thought which make this movie an artistic masterpiece.

Utah Arts Festival

So go out and invoke meditative thought. Go look at some street art. Go to your local art museum. Take some pictures on your phone. Do anything that makes you look at the world a little differently. If you need some help don’t hesitate to grab a ticket to the Utah Arts Festival which will be taking place from Thursday, June 21st to Sunday, June 24th. Festivities will be held from 12 noon to 11 pm each day at the Library and Washington Squares in Salt Lake City (200 E 400 S). So much inspiration will be present and I hope to catch you there!

 

 

A Festival Newbie’s Take On Bonanza Camp Out 2018

Bonanza Campout 2018 is coming up quick, and as someone who’s never been to a festival of any kind, I couldn’t be more stoked. I will be surrounded by hundreds, even thousands of people, hanging out and listening to music together. With acts such as Wiz Khalifa and Halsey, Bonanza is sure to bring together a good amount of people excited to jam out and have fun.

What fifteen-year-old me is so excited about:

I can see myself back in sophomore year of high school; sitting at my desk in my room, procrastinating on my homework, and indulging myself in synth-packed, indie music remixed by the likes of artists such as Snakehips and Hippie Sabotage. In fact, I distinctly remember binge-listening to Snakehips remix of BANKS’ “Warm Water while I was playing obscure Steam games instead of doing homework. Those kinds of memories I have with songs from Snakehips, Hippie Sabotage, and Oh Wonder that are really making me excited to experience Bonanza.

However nostalgia aside, I have broadened my musical palette since my SoundCloud phase where I discovered those artists. This really makes me appreciate the chill, crisp beats paired with the multitude of different synth sounds and production techniques that I loved so much years ago. Not only that, I’ve also noticed that revisiting artists after not having listened to them for a while is generally a different kind of experience. This only makes me more excited for the live sets.

What thirteen-year-old me is so excited about:

I generally try not to talk about middle school, and I’m sure everyone can relate to some extent. But I do remember that Wiz Khalifa was poppin’ back then. And I would ALWAYS hear people bumping Black and Yellow during lunch. Or at those awkward middle school dances.

I used to listen to O.N.I.F.C. and Blacc Hollywood a lot after having been exposed to Black and Yellow, and while I’m pretty sure I haven’t listened to him since then, it’ll definitely be fun to hear what could be the pop culture anthem of the early 2010s, Young, Wild, & Free.

What regular old me is so excited about:

Here’s where I make a big confession: I don’t listen to any of these artists in the lineup now. So you’re probably asking why I’m even going, and I totally get that. Just hear me out.

Music festivals offer more than just being able to see so many of your favorite artists within the span of a couple of days. Of course, that’s a great aspect of it, but no one there knows all of the artists performing. One of the major things about these festivals is exposure. Being able to discover artists at the capacity a festival allows for is a huge aspect for the artists and the audience, and that’s what I’m really excited about. This is an opportunity for so many people to potentially discover their new obsession, and that’s a special feeling that I love to experience. On top of that, festivals are a place to let loose and have fun. If anything, that alone is a pretty good reason, but don’t get me wrong, I’m pumped to be in that crowd when Phantogram comes on, they’re pretty sick.

Phone Calls Ambiguous: Cary Fagan

 

Cary Fagan.

Soft-spoken visual connoisseur. Artist. Hero.

More so, one of the most important artists of our time.

Operating under the realm of the Batman trope, Cary Fagan doesn’t say too much. His presence however, provides a deep sense of emancipation.

His Twitter is a database of existential thought. His Instagram, a database of studio experiments and unprecedented endeavors in artistic revelation.

He is the walking personification of the jazz saxophone solo. An ambiguous serene enigma of purity that creates fluid optical trance.

Cary, ahead of two huge landmarks in his career, gifted me the opportunity to have a conversation with him. He was rounding up his third solo show in Nizhni Tagil, Russia and preparing for another, his homecoming, in his native Arizona.

We talked about a lot. From Pho to Jazz to Tickets to Outer Space.

This conversation is part of the Phone Calls Ambiguous Series via STAMM Radio. The experience has been designed around the interviewee existing with the reader/listener, excluding the presence of the interviewer.

Table of Contents

1. Russia: Now and Beyond
2. Arizona Homecoming
3. Chairs, a Fanstasy
4. Fear & Intuition
5. A C.F Voice Memo Album?
6. Polaroid Politics
7. Failure & Wall of Mistakes
8. Ticket to Outer Space
9. The Sacred Spiritual Soup…Pho
10. Tokyo

Russia: Now and Beyond

When I caught up with Cary, he was rounding up his third solo show in Nizhni Tagil, Russia. I asked about the circumstances surrounding how they came to be and his future endeavors regarding the space. He talks being deemed “Co-Curator” of the space, and the prospects of sponsoring American artists in the future.

Homecoming: Arizona

“The moment almost feels as if LeBron left his home team, played for another team, and returned”

While concluding his solo show abroad, he was getting ready for another—this time in his native Phoenix, Arizona. Cary hadn’t been to Arizona, in nearly over 20 years since his departure. He describes the feeling of finally returning—a long overdue homecoming.

Chairs, a Fantasy

Cary grants insight into his long-lived fascination with chairs.

On Fear and Intuition

Cary’s take on Fear and Intuition. The roles they play and have played.

A C.F. Voice Memo Album?

Very very very exciting news… I mean.. have you heard Cary talk? You are absolutely going to love this.

Polaroid Politics

The Analog Connoisseur talks to us about Polaroids; his adventures with them and their place in society.

Failure and “The Wall of Mistakes”

Cary’ take on “Failure” and an installation he’s currently working on that embraces the concept.

Ticket to Outer Space

I was telling Cary the story about Fela’s encounter with Sun Ra, back in ’74 during FESTAC.

Little did I know Cary had his own encounter with the Arkestra.

Cary revisits the rare moment.

The Sacred Spiritual Soup…Pho

Hearing Cary Fagan talking about Pho has to be on the long list of most satisfying things to listen to.

 On Tokyo

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Get familiar:

 

Cary Fagan courtesy of RELIANT

Cary Fagan courtesy of COLORED 

Love Your Art? Walk Away From It

I’m writing this for artists. If you’re at a point where it doesn’t feel right, isn’t working, you’re lacking inspiration, I want to give you this piece of advice; walk away. Just walk away. That may sound counter intuitive to everything you’ve heard or felt but, if you’re stuck, I encourage you to walk away.

I’m an actor. Was an actor. Am an actor again. I studied, trained and have worked in a variety of venues from theme parks to Shakespeare festivals, from film and TV to voice over and commercials. I am not famous, that was never the goal. If that were to happen I wouldn’t mind at all however, I didn’t get into this thinking, I’m going to be famous. I got into this hoping I could be a working actor. I am a working actor. Those in the business know this term and understand that it’s not a bad place to be. I pay my bills, fund my entertainment, buy my bourbon by acting. I’ve done it for about 30 years and it was wonderful. Then it wasn’t.

 

A Working Actor

Let me explain the working actor thing for those of you who are not in the business or don’t have a connection to it. We see movie stars on screens and sometimes we see them on stage. We see stories about them in the news and images of them in fine fashion on carpets of red and in sleek cars and swanky houses. That may be the only image you have of actors. But, it’s a very limited view.

There are actors, good actors, great actors, inspiring actors all over the country who never achieve national fame. There are fine actors in your local theaters, in regional theaters all over the country. These actors are working actors meaning, they go to rehearsal, put up the show, run the show and move on to the next gig.

Now and then, they may get a role in a film, a guest shot on a TV show and that’s great. Most of the time working actors spend their lives going to auditions, (many, many auditions), getting cast, doing the job and going on to the next job. If you get three or four plays a year, maybe a few guest shots, a few small films, or, wow, a national commercial, then you’re doing well. You’re getting insurance, your pension is being paid into and you don’t have to do a day job. That’s the goal of the working actor. They’re everywhere and they are the backbone of the American theater. I have been very lucky to count myself among them for a long, long time.

 

It Just Wasn’t Working Anymore

Photo Credit: Nick Hidalgo

One day, it changed. I’m not 100% sure of what triggered it, I’m not sure of exactly why it happened but, one day it just didn’t work any longer. The joy I got from starting a new show, doing a rehearsal, discovering the depths of a character, creating a life with other actors, wasn’t fun. It was frustrating and making me angry. I was coming home from rehearsal and complaining to my bathroom mirror about this actor or this director.

First I stopped being generous in scenes, then I stopped listening. I was just angry all the time. My agent was sending me on auditions and I was giving excuses why I couldn’t do them. I had no real excuse, I just didn’t feel like standing in the room, reading what I thought were poorly written scripts and hopingfor the three line gig in a bad movie. Everything that I enjoyed about being an actor was making me angry and lost. I was making myself sick, and as a result I caused the actors I worked with some level of pain.

“Why not stop?” a dear friend asked me and my reply was interesting, if only to me. I didn’t say “No, I can’t.” I didn’t say “No, it will get better”. I said, “You know, I have good mind to do just that, just stop and see what happens.” I didn’t understand the sheer arrogance of that statement until a few months later but, it was symptomatic of how I was feeling at the time.

The real reason I didn’t want to stop, even though it was clearly killing me, was because I didn’t know who I would be. For most of my life I was an actor. People at parties would ask that terrible question; “So, what do you do?” and I was always ready with “I’m an actor.” I defined myself, my existence, my very being with the phrase; “I’m an actor”. If I stopped, who, what would I be? I also had this stupid notion that if I stopped the theater world would crumble without me. Let me stress again, I am not famous so, if I stopped nothing would happen. I just didn’t want to believe that.

Then, it just got to be too much. I stopped because I was too angry, too unhappy, too sick. I called my agent and told her I was stepping away. No one else knew, I just stopped. I did what my parents had always wanted me to do, I got a “real” job and I started living a very different life.

Photo Credit: Austin Chan

I noticed two things immediately; one; I was a lot less angry. And two; nobody gave a rat’s puckered ass that I quit. No one called and begged me to return. No theaters closed and put up signs saying: due to my retirement this theatre sees no reason to continue on. Movies were made, plays were produced and no one cared that I had quit. Oh, I was upset at first, how could they and don’t they know who I am, what I have done?

After a few months I really started to enjoy going to an office and doing a regular job. I liked having full weekends off. Actors usually get one day off per week. I liked being in my apartment all the time and not having to go off to a theater for 8 weeks and then come back and then go. The holidays were enjoyable, I liked spending the time with people I knew and not cobbling together an “orphans” Thanksgiving because I was on the road. I enjoyed having the life I had always shunned and avoided because I was an actor and being an actor meant you have rules. An actor does this and an actor sacrifices that and …. Blah. I realized, just like no one really caring that I quit, that no one had imposed these spartan rules about acting on me, but me.

 

A Year Off

I had given myself a time frame. I had decided that I would step away for a year. That was a big deal. I had never gone more than a month without a gig so, a full year was going to be tough. After the first few months, I didn’t miss it. I spent time with people who weren’t actors and had nothing to do with the business. I read a lot more. I learned a new skill. I got a steady paycheck. I went places on weekends. I lived a very different life.

Now and then I wondered if I’d ever go back, wondered if a year away would make me forget everything I had known but, those were fleeting thoughts. When I met new people and they asked what I did I would answer; “When” or “Why, what have you heard?” Sometimes I’d say something like, “Well, last night, I took this cooking class.” I stopped defining myself as my job, as an actor, as a profession. It was great. I felt free I felt new— I felt human.

I had told my boss my story when he first hired me and I let him know about my one year timeline. He was fine with that. When my year was almost up, out of the blue, I got a call from a director I had worked with several times and he asked me to do a show with him. I surprised myself with my initial response. I said, “I’d have to think about it, I have a regular job and I really don’t know if I could act again”. He was as surprised as I was. Normally, I would have said yes before I even heard the full offer. I have to think about it was not at all what he was expecting. I talked with my boss and he said the greatest thing; “Why can’t you do both?”

 

“Why Can’t You Do Both?”

Simple question but one, a year ago, I would never have entertained. Do both? Well, if I did both what would I be? Would I be an actor or a copywriter? Do I have to redefine my title. Would I have to do one of those, well, I’m really an actor but right now … things? All the things that would have hung me up a year before suddenly didn’t matter. I asked, can I work remotely, he said yes, I called the director, took the gig and that was that.

Photo Credit: Peyman Naderi

I was thrilled to be back in the room. Rehearsals were enjoyable again. I was happy to be back, exploring, creating and acting again. The big difference, I didn’t define myself as my profession any more. It made things easier. It made me happier. I wasn’t holding on so tight, I wasn’t keeping myself to some unwritten set of demands that I had to adhere to to be an actor. I was just doing it.

When the contract ended I returned to my office and it was great. I was happy to be back, happy to have done the show. I was happy. That was something I had missed, being happy. Shortly after my return I called my agent and she put me back in rotation. I went back to auditioning, feeling much more free, much more present. I was no longer getting crazy over the quality of scripts or the behavior of other actors, I was just present and happy to be so.

Walking away from my art was the best thing I have ever done in my life. Stepping away fully, starting a completely new career, not defining myself by my occupation, was healing and eye opening. I learned more about myself, what I was capable of, what I had limited myself to and what I wanted, than I ever imagined. I’m acting again. At the time of writing this, I’m getting ready to head off to do “Waiting for Godot”. I’m still working as a copywriter as well. I’m not defining myself as one thing. My acting is better. I am happier and I am curious in rehearsal again. I love the art again. And, I didn’t lose a step. All my training and time didn’t just vanish. I wasn’t starting from square one, but I was feeling like a student again and that is wonderful.

Walk away. Just leave it for a month, six months, a year. Do something else. Find out who you really are when you don’t define yourself as your occupation. Don’t worry, it will be there when you return. The world will be there. You’ll recognize it but, you may not recognize yourself.

Photo Credit; Hailey Kean @keanyefoto
Paul Kiernan is a writer/actor/eater of foods. He lives in Salt Lake City, and when he’s not acting he hangs his hat at ThoughtLab.

Crisol | Origins In Latin American Film

CRISOLFILMINITIATIVE WEB PAGE

Crisol | Free Latin American Film Series, March 14-April 3, 2015

U film & media arts student, Karem Orrego, Founder of Crisol Film Initiative

U film & media arts student, Karem Orrego, Founder of the Crisol Film Initiative

CRISOL | “DIFFERENT, TOGETHER”

The Rostrum catches a few minutes at the Union, with Karem Orrego, founder of the new experience in Latin American Film, CRISOL. Busy with finals as we all are, Karem generously shares a glimpse of how CRISOL got started—a beginning that connected an amazing assortment of cultures, people, partnerships and interests. CRISOL’s FILM LIST.

At the Urban Arts Gallery opener, one of the many attendees wrote on the interactive mural, “Crisol means, being different together.”

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    Crisol founder Karem Orrego.

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    Her creation is a new intercultural film experience.

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    Karem had a smile for every answer.

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    “I like to do things Big.”

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    Orrego’s first award-winning film was the documentary, Memoirs of My Father.